The Marriages Act has come into operation after it was announced in a Statutory Instrument of a Government Gazette published last Friday. The new Act is Chapter 5:17 according to SI, reported The Herald.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed the Marriages Act in May this year after debate in Parliament which lasted for almost two years, particularly on payment of roora / lobola (bride price) in a customary marriage.
The Act brings all marriage laws together. Among other things, the Act enacts the Constitutional requirement that the minimum age for marriage is 18 years.
The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers, Veritas, and CGTN have independently put together fact sheets on the new Marriages Act indicating the basics that can help members of the public understand the essence of it. Marriages Act Chapter 5:15 is the new law regulating all marriages in Zimbabwe.
Law expert, Fadzayi Mahere says a lot of the provisions are yet to be tested in a court of law and there are many legal issues that arise from the Act. Pindula News presents the salient points to note from the Marriages Act:
1. AGE OF MARRIAGE
The minimum age of marriage is 18 years for both girls and boys. It is, therefore, a crime to marry off a child and anyone involved in that will be prosecuted. It is a substantial crime if the parents or guardians are involved.
There must be free and full consent from anyone wanting to get married.
3. TYPES OF MARRIAGES:
a). A civil marriage is a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman.
b). A registered customary marriage is potentially polygamous and done according to customary rites.
c). A qualified marriage is a union contracted according to religious rites which is not registrable as civil or customary marriage and is potentially polygamous.
A registered customary law marriage may be converted to a civil marriage.
4. UNREGISTERED CUSTOMARY LAW UNIONS (KUBVISIRANA PFUMA)
- Unregistered customary law unions are not recognised marriages
- Unions contracted after the new ACT must register within 3 months of the date of the union.
- However, unions that existed before this ACT must be registered within 12 months.
- Failure to register does not invalidate the union, guardianship, custody and the rights of succession of children in such a marriage. (limited recognition).
5. CIVIL PARTNERSHIP (KUBIKA MAPOTO)
It is not a marriage but recognised ONLY for purposes of property sharing It is a relationship of a man and a woman above the age of 18 years living together on a genuine domestic basis It can co-exist with any other marriage including a Cavil marriage.
6. EQUAL STATUS OF ALL MARRIAGES
All marriages are equal. there is no marriage superior to the other.
For customary law marriages, the agreement relating to lobola or marriage consideration is necessary. Customary law formalities are a prerequisite.
8. EQUAL RIGHTS
Parties to a marriage have equal rights and obligations during the subsistence of the marriage and at its dissolution.
9. MARRIAGE OFFICERS:
b. Ministers of religion
c. Chiefs (they solemnise customary marriages)
d. Heads of embassies
10. DIVORCE LAW (MATRIMONIAL CAUSES ACT)
The law on divorce applies to all types of marriages and civil partnerships but does not apply to unregistered customary law unions.